If you ask my mother, a first-generation Chinese-Canadian, what success is, she’ll tell you it’s two letters behind your name: MD. I was supposed to be a doctor in a parallel life. Just kidding, I was supposed to be one in this life, period. Other things that I was supposed to have accomplished by now was buy a contemporary, yet classic house five times too big for two people and paint it in shades of gray with my surprisingly-tall-for being-Asian cardiothoracic surgeon husband in the city I grew up in: Edmonton, Alberta, the northernmost North American city with more than one million people. Our other claim to fame is that we used to have the largest shopping mall in the world, emphasis on the used to. I was a good kid, probably a bit too nerdy, a bit too eager to please. I could probably fit in a typical second-generation Chinese-Canadian mould except that I can’t play an instrument. I took all Advanced Placement classes, pretended to be athletic, and enthusiastically participated in almost every student body club that existed. I was on the fast-track to a life that I could already see stretched out before me, like the yellow brick road to upper-middle class averageness. In high school, I was voted “Most Likely to Be Successful” by my graduating class, a paper plate award that I particularly loathe now because I can’t be decide whether my classmates made a huge mistake, or whether they actually hit the nail so hard on the head that I’m still spinning from the impact. I strayed so far, figuratively and literally, from the white picket fence and that yellow brick road. I’m tip-toeing around thirty, and not a doctor, not famous, but, I live in the most beautiful country in the world, half a world away from where I was born and raised…Italy. Perhaps some would even consider that the definition of success: the chance to spend my days as the racially-ambiguous Asian version of Frances Mayes sans the nightmares of renovating an Italian villa from scratch, sipping 1 Euro wine under the Tuscan sun with a intentionally-scruffy Italian fellow named Marcello (who would coincidentally resemble a younger Raoul Bova). In all honesty, that is almost my life except that I never buy bottles of wine, only the 5L jugs which cost at most 5 Euros, my Italian husband is named Massimiliano, not Marcello, and we live in Lombardy although I often wish it were Tuscany.
...to be continued. Chapter 1 coming Tuesday, April 14th, 2020.